Less Water, More Control: The Benefits of Dry Throwing on the Pottery Wheel

Every potter, at one time or another, has had a pot collapse because it became water logged. Porcelain is especially susceptible to too much water, but, regardless of the clay you use, it is not a bad idea for all potters to learn to throw with less water because it simply offers you more control.

It is not an easy thing to get used to, but as potter Whitney Smith explains in today’s video, with a little patience and practice, this technique can open doors for you and help you take your pottery to the next level. – Jennifer Harnetty, editor.

[flash http://www.ceramicartdaily.net/movie/smithdrythrow.flv mode=0 f={image=/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/drythrow_still.jpg}]

Looking for further guidance to take your throwing to the next level?

Check out Robin Hopper’s ever-popular DVD Advanced Throwing: Extended and Altered Forms in the Ceramic Arts Daily Bookstore.


To see more images of Whitney Smith’s finished work, visit www.whitneysmithpottery.com.
  • I am still a beginner potter, however, I am constantly looking for ways to improve my skills. I use too much water and I think I will try to do this before I have too many bad habits! Thanks!

  • Kathleen R.

    Oops, Must have been my server. It just reappeared!

  • Kathleen R.

    I wanted to watch this video, and it’s not here. Do they get taken off the site after a certain amount of time?

  • Years ago, the late and unforgettable Ron Durham, took my water bucket away to force me to throw with NO water once it was centered and opened. This made a GIGANTIC difference in my throwing. I do use stoneware and general reclaimed clay I add a lot of grog to any clay I use. Oh, I do have skin on my fingers. It works GREAT, and expands the posibilities with out the soupy clay. I can also pick up the finished piece to move it as soon as I finish throwing.

  • Caroline K.

    Also: Less Water. Less Mess to clean!
    Great video.

  • Thank you for share it, is wonderfull. I’ll try and practice and practice, jaja, because i use too much water.

  • Barclay D.

    I enjoyed the video and, as a result, tried using less water last week. I like the results though I have a long way to go to refine the practice and get comfortable with it. Thanks.

  • Jennifer V.

    Interesting video. I didn’t like it when camera angle shifted that she switched to a fuzzy black and white, slightly sepia toned format. It made it grainy and was very distracting. Since these were closeup moments on the technique it was lost in the graininess of the video effect. Looking forward to trying to throw with less water.

  • Tina D.

    The wheel may appear to be traveling clockwise but this may be due to a phenomena known as strobing. When a revolving object revolves above some threshold speed it appears to reverse directions. If you catch the scene where the top is being trimmed, there is a small fleck of clay to watch and the direction appears counterclockwise.

  • Emily S.

    That was great,i usually use too much water! Maybe with less water, the more control you can with shaping the clay. I definitly will try that! Also theonly thing that i would worry about,is using grittier clay.. I agree that that wouldnt work out well. But that was great with that kind and close to that kind of clay!!!!!

  • Pauline H.

    I tend to throw quite dry as I use porcelain a lot and it responds much better without too much water, but I do get a bit of drag. Good instruction and a boost to keep going and master this technique

  • Tammy S.

    Thank you for sharing your video, I love expanding what I can do on the wheel! Actually the way a clay feels is VERY important to me. Will have a go at this technique with my smooth clays. The thought of doing this with stoneware or grog clay creeps me out a bit…like fingernails on a chalkboard 😉

  • It does seem like the wheel is going clockwise. I’ve been throwing on a wheel going clockwise, and I think I’m actually doing better with it than with counterclockwise. It’s hard to tell, though, since I’m just starting, and the wheel in my classroom that goes counterclockwise wobbles a little.

  • Tracey P.

    Has anyone done this low water technique with stoneware?

  • Brenda B.


  • Roberta F.

    I think this is pretty much what I do. I only wet my fingertips if I feel the clay dragging. I am a neat freak too.

  • Tasha O.

    I have been throwing fairly dry for years as I prefer the way the clay feels, plus I’m a neat freak (can you imagine a potter having a clean fetish?) so this keeps the mess way down. I DO NOT throw slowly (as one of the comments suggested) with this low-water throwing, in fact I have a tendency towards throwing way too fast. This technique is like any other, it takes getting used to and will not feel “right” to some.

  • and I just fell in love with you… 🙂

  • John L.

    Once you get used to feeling the limit of friction the clay can stand, and adjust your pressures, using this technique will stretch what you can do with the clay in the least amount of time. It works especially well with clays that want to sag under their own weight anyway, where added water limits the height or makes drying to continu necessary. Porcelain responds well to this technique.

  • Francine E.

    Is the wheel going clockwise in this video or is it my imagination?

  • Sheena M.

    Interesting, but I would have preferred if she stated exactly why/how what she does works as opposed to a more traditional method. My guess from watching is that she goes very slowly, with very little pressure over the piece, drawing up the pot many times. Otherwise it would drag, as we’ve all learned the hard way when trying to throw a pot with not enough water.

  • Very nice . . . thanks! I find I do this naturally on the walls. I think I get too involved and forget to reach for the water. One secret might be to throw with as little contact with the skin as possible–that is, throw more with the fingertips. I notice this seems to be what Whitney is doing, at least on the outside of the pot. I hadn’t tried to collar in a piece dry, as she has done here, but it looks like a great technique. This part of my clay frequently does get too wet and needs to be allowed to dry before continuing, especially when making a tiny neck on a wide bottle.

    Again, Thanks!

  • I’m going to try it. I love your works. thanks

  • Lee Ann H.

    Good instruction. I want to try this!

  • Greg B.

    I dunno. I think I will always use moderate amounts of water. I just like the way the clay feels “sliding” through my fingers/hands. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to see different techniques. ~Greg http://www.MantaWave.Etsy.com

  • Connie F.

    This is not dry-throwing. I have seen dry-throwing and NO water is used not a little water as this demo states. Disappointed.

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